A few years ago, a young middle schooler faced racial discrimination and bullying after being sent photoshopped images of his face being thrown in a trash can, put on a gorilla suit and with a gun to his head. On top of that, he also received images of a noose, a KKK member and a meme saying, “Black people aren’t functioning members of society.”
“I presented the problem to the school,” recalled Devin Moore, the victim of this incident. “All the school did was give one of the three bullies an in-school suspension. I saw this going on throughout the world. I thought that I should do something about it.”
The now 15-year-old student did take action and created his now year-old initiative #RaceToSpeakUp. It is an organization dedicated to educating and empowering the youth in regards to bullying. His latest endeavor has been chairing the newly created anti-bullying task force, which is Suffolk County’s first one made up of young students.
“I was immediately impressed at how he wanted to turn his situation around from a negative experience to a positive,” said Legislator DuWayne Gregory, who initially met with Devin after the bullying incident occurred and helped him to create the task force. “He has a lot of energy and he’s reaching out to various leaders in the community to get the message out.”
The Youth Anti-Bullying Task Force consists of student representatives from the ages of 16 to 18 across Suffolk County.
Joseph Salamone, who is the founder and executive director of the Long Island Coalition Against Bullying (LICAB), is helping oversee the task force and he’s optimistic about their progress.
“Going into it I was a little pessimistic because of the reputation that kids have these days, but I quickly learned that it was quiet the opposite,” said Salamone. “They’re poignant, mature, intelligent and it’s been a fantastic experience.”
So far, there have been four meetings, and the task force is working on a resource guide and app that will be designed under the advisement of the task force. It will then be created by the county and ran daily by the LICAB.
As for Devin’s organization, he plans on holding anti-bullying workshops within schools and is working on trying to pass legislation that will require schools to report all bullying incidents to the superintendent, then make a record of those incidents, giving transparency to parents, so they can see what happened and how the situation was handled.